By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2007-03-15 Print this article Print

The Titan release, demonstrated by Brad Wilson, general manager of Dynamics CRM, is a good example of what the company is trying to accomplish with its Live, or SAAS (software as a service) initiative. Like Salesforce.coms on-demand CRM software, Microsofts will be customizable. It will have calendaring and full sales, marketing and customer service offerings. It will also bring a new resource center—or community—right into the product, with message board, blogs and tips. And like Salesforce.com, Titan will be customizable to a companys particular business and enable mashups, or bringing together two separate functionalities like Google Maps and contacts. But heres where Salesforce.com and Microsoft diverge: The customizations in Titan automatically trigger customizations in Outlook—an area that is, arguably, Microsofts alone. And is installed on a lot of desktops. Using an event management company as an example, Wilson explained how Titan is customized.
"You can import a new site map. When its imported it will change the data model, change the screen and reconfigure it as an event management application. It goes from sales, service and marketing to all about events. Very simply you can configure this to look like your system. When you reconfigure CRM, it reconfigures Outlook on the fly to be an events management application," Wilson said to audience applause.
Following Wilsons demo, Ballmer took the stage to detail Microsofts plans with its Live initiative for Dynamics. The plan: to release CRM Live later this year and, over time, other Live products from Dynamics. The vision is to not only appeal to "hardcore ERP users" but to try to really create the business-ready business, a tag line thats become Microsofts theme. To this end Russ Burtner, who works in Microsofts Center for Information Work, demonstrated the Live Desk—one of only two that exist in the world. The idea is the desktop of the future—not the PC kind, but rather the actual desk people sit at. Its top is a live screen with a piece of glass attached to the top that is, in essence, a monitor. There is no keyboard, no mouse. Everything is touch-screen. Business users are able to interact with different parts of their organization in real time—connect with the factory floor to see whos working there, or what the inventory level is (everything will be tagged with RFID, so inventory management will be automatic). Suppliers can be accessed through services. Documents can be automatically scanned in the system by putting the paper on the surface, like an automatic copier built into the desktop. Using voice capabilities (heres where the March 14 Tellme acquisition comes in) users can speak to the computer to initiate searches on ERP or external data, and then perform analysis. But the Live Desk is in the future. For the moment, Microsoft is focusing on expanding its reach with Dynamics, both internally by leveraging the Microsoft stack and externally through initiatives like Live. "We are committed to driving industry transformation, and we are pushing this transformation from software as service as fast as anybody around," said Ballmer without a hint of irony. "We dont get in and do something and get in it for a year. Sometimes we get it right the first release, sometimes it takes a second. But everything we do, including Dynamics, were just going to keep investing and investing and investing." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.


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